Architect and designer born in Hessle, Yorkshire, the eldest son of the Revd Charles Voysey, the founder of the Theistic Church. The family moved to London in 1871 and in 1874 Voysey was articled to the Gothic revival architect, J.P. Seddon; in 1880, he became an assistant to George Devey, a designer of large country houses, and in 1881 set up in independent practice. With a dearth of commissions for houses, his initial income came from designing wallpaper and textiles much influenced by the work of Arthur Mackmurdo and William Morris. In 1884 Voysey was elected a member of the Art Workers’ Guild (Master in 1924). In December 1888, his design for a cottage, published by the British Architect, finally attracted clients. Thereafter his reputation grew rapidly; he regularly exhibited his building, furniture and decorative designs with the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society and at the RA, and his house designs were published with increasing frequency in journals both in the UK and abroad. For his houses he rejected period styles and, aligning himself with the ideas of Pugin and Ruskin, produced designs not just for the structures – which must be well-built, with clean, simple lines, clear plans, and within an English vernacular tradition – but for all the fixtures and furnishings within them. The taste for Voysey’s houses began to dwindle around 1906, with the rising fashion for classical architecture, and after 1914 he received very few commissions. Among his few executed works in these years are two war memorials, Malvern Wells, Worcestershire (1919) and St John’s churchyard, Potters Bar, Hertfordshire (1920) and a reredos (1927) for Culbone church, Somerset. Despite the downturn in his fortunes, he was finally elected FRIBA in 1929 and awarded the gold medal for architecture in 1940. He published only one book, Individuality (1915), and one pamphlet, Reason as the Basis of Art (1906).
Sources: Briggs, M.S., ‘Voysey, Charles Francis Annesley (1857–1941)’, rev. W. Hitchmough, ODNB, Oxford, 2004; British Architect, 7 December 1888, pp. 401, 405; Oxford Art Online – Grove Art Online; The Times, 13 February 1941, p. 7 (obit.); The C.F.A. Voysey Society website.
Terry Cavanagh November 2022
Charles Francis Annesley Voysey, Lafayetter, 1932, half-plate film negative (photo: © National Portrait Gallery, London)